Brand names are an important aspect in setting the tone and personality of your brand, as well as being a key element in marketing activity. Along with design and tone of voice, a name can be a means of differentiation and should reflect the overall brand strategy you’ve developed.
Choosing a name can be a difficult task in itself, but it’s made even harder because so many are already in use and trademarked. By sure to check carefully that any names you’re considering for a company, product or service aren’t already in use and protected by law.
On the whole, a name falls into one of a few types, which can be arranged along a kind of spectrum of attributes. These attributes are:
Names which simply say what the company/brand does. For example:
- Easyjet – makes flying easy
- Toys ‘R’ Us – is all about toys
- AA (Automobile Association) – is for motorists
Names which suggest associations to the brand but do not try to describe the offer precisely. For example:
- First Direct – first bank to offer instant telephone banking
- Innocent – natural purity of the fruit juice
Names that break sector rules and stand out. They make no clear reference to the nature of the business. For example:
- Orange – bright, optimistic, Modernist
- Aviva – an invented name than suggests dynamism and movement
- Toast – suggests familiarity and warmth
In branding and brand management a lot of importance is placed on achieving consistency, so that the same attributes and characteristics are evident in all areas of the business’ operations. Essentially, ‘the big idea’ touches and informs everything you do.
Some contemporary brands are less heavily ‘policed’ in this way. There is a trend towards encouraging customers to generate their own content or interpretations within a framework of branded elements or templates. The London 2012 Olympics logo, for example, was designed by Wolff Ollins with these types of user- generated adaptations in mind.
Evolution or revolution
An important question when undertaking any reassessment of your brand is whether to go for small, incremental changes as a refresher, or to plump for a major overhaul of your company’s or product’s image.
Broadly speaking, evolution is preferable if you are already in a strong position with a solid customer base and you just need to keep up with a growing or developing market. Revolution, on the other hand, might be more appropriate if your customer base is in decline, the market has changed substantially since the inception of your current brand or you have no point of difference from your competitors.
To work through these kinds of questions it’s a good idea to consider hiring a designer to look at the current state of your company and explore possibilities for developing it.
In more depth
We have compiled a free step-by-step guide to hiring and working with a designer which provides expert advice, useful tips and first-hand commentary from small business owners and designers.
Visit the Design Council website to find out more.
BP: evolution then revolution
A BP corporate identity designed in the early 1920s was used for over 80 years, with refreshed versions appearing periodically to keep the logo looking contemporary.
However, in 2000 there was a break from the past when the corporate identity was completely redesigned to create the current tessellated ‘sunflower’ or Helios identity. This change was a reflection of a change in the company’s approach to environmental concerns.
BP’s emphasis on the development of renewable energy sources was encapsulated in the tagline ‘Beyond Petroleum’, along with other similar aspirational, environmentally themed messages, such as ‘bigger picture’ and ‘better products’.
Apple: revolution then evolution
The original Apple Computer logo was a complex, illustrated picture of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree. Company chief executive Steve Jobs thought the overly detailed logo had something to do with the slow sales of the Apple I computer, so he decided on a complete change in identity – a revolution of the corporate visual design – and commissioned the rainbow striped logo, which then ran for 22 years. A revolution in branding was needed to kick-start demand for the company’s products. But by 1998, Apple was firmly established as a successful computer manufacturer and so the rainbow identity underwent an evolution to become the more contemporary ‘transparent’ Apple logo in use today.
Condom manufacturer Durex decided to broaden its appeal by positioning the company as being concerned with sexual wellbeing, rather than just condoms. It’s an evolution of the existing Durex brand that adapts to a changing marketplace and keeps the company’s identity and associations fresh.
Carrying the slogan ‘Lucozade aids recovery’, the product was originally manufactured by a Newcastle chemist as a source of energy for people who are unwell. But its market share was declining in the 1980s, so the company opted for a revolution of the brand, targeting a completely new customer base. Its energy-giving qualities were promoted to the sports performance market and an advertising campaign featuring athlete Daley Thompson used the new slogan ‘Lucozade replaces lost energy’. Product packaging was completely redesigned and sales subsequently tripled between 1984 and 1989.
Housing charity Shelter had changed its focus to the problems of poor housing conditions, but a strong association with homelessness – its previous focus – remained. So its identity was evolved to emphasise the fact that housing is at the core of its activities.
To achieve this, the letter ‘h’ was adjusted on all its typography so that the top of the ‘h’ looks like a pitched roof.
The benefits are clear:
How rebranding helped Kingsdown Water tap into new markets
It can be considered risky to meddle if you’ve already got a winning formula, but re-vamping your brand can also bring great rewards.
William Bomer, Managing Director of Kingsdown Water was aware of the risks when he decided to refresh the look of the company’s mineral water brand. But Bomer wanted to take the gamble to generate new revenue streams.
In the first eight months after brand was relaunched the value of sales were up by roughly a third on the previous year and the conversion of customers at the top end of the market increased five-fold, with several top restaurants now stocking Kingsdown water.
Branding for different sectors
In this chapter we will outline:
- The similarities and differences between branding in different market sectors
- Examples from the business world
If you’re launching a new business, you’re in a unique position to operate as what is often called a ‘challenger brand’. This means that you can take a look at a market sector from the outside, assess all the players, opportunities or gaps in the market and then launch your product with a brand that challenges and shakes up the conventions of the sector. It’s hard to do this once you’re established as there’s more to lose, so think carefully about how brave and ‘rule’-breaking’ your product or service can be if you’re about to launch to market.
Another benefit you may have as a start-up is that the business is likely to be small and therefore responsive and adaptable, with no existing processes that have to be changed to create a new brand. In short: you’ve got one shot to do something exciting, relatively cheaply, so go for it.
Gü: start-up brand
Gü was launched into the chilled desserts market as a premium product whose name (an invented word) simultaneously hints at a European origin and evokes thoughts of gooey chocolate or treacle.
The name and graphic black and white packaging all broke the ‘rules’ of design and branding in the desserts sector and the product consequently stands out strongly in supermarkets.
The brand has subsequently been extended with the launch of Frü, a range of fruit desserts.
Although all branding is about communicating a clear offer to your customers or users, branding in the public sector is not necessarily as concerned with maximum market stand-out, as it typically is in the commercial/private sector. For public sector organisations, such as the police force and health services, the focus may be on clarity and access to important information. So branding and design may focus on signposting this information or communicating issues clearly in order to change people’s behaviour – a Department of Health quit smoking campaign, for example.
Clarity can sometimes fall foul of the complex nature of public sector services, which are often run by a network of stakeholder organisations or partners. In branding terms, putting the logos of all such partners on ‘customer’-facing communications can lead to visual clutter, a lack of clarity and confusion. It’s important, therefore, to be clear when a brand or branded campaign is needed and to ensure that its identity is distinct and clear for users.
National Health Service: greater clarity
The NHS visual identity had become fragmented, with around 1,000 organisations using different identities. An NHS identity programme was set up to address this and create a national unified brand. This ensures clarity and consistency and permits costs savings across the organisation because implementing one brand is more cost effective than supporting many.
Whilst most companies and organisations are providing a service of one type or another, for some businesses customer service is the dominant part of the offer. For these companies particular attention needs to be paid to how the brand (the big idea and all its components) are reflected in the way the service is provided and the way staff interact with customers.
In essence, service brands are built on the people who deliver them. This means that staff needed to be trained to get an understanding of the company’s culture, its ‘promise’ to customers and how they will be put into practice on a day to day basis. In this scenario, the human resources department is closely linked to brand management.
First Direct: service
First Direct was the first company to bring a 24-hour banking service to the market and its level of service was a key message in promoting the bank to potential customers.
To ensure the delivery of high quality service, First Direct recruits people with customer service skills rather than those who are already in the banking industry. This ensures that the company’s service
delivery matches is brand ‘promise’.
Business to business
A lot of the brands discussed in this guide are consumer-facing brands, but many businesses market their products and services directly to other businesses, not the public. But the principles of effective branding apply in just the same way in the B2B sector as elsewhere. As in consumer products, B2B companies need to use branding to differentiate, stand-out and create a distinct personality, even if that personality is more corporate and business-like in its tone.
Mechan: B2B branding
Mechan designs and manufactures mechanical handling equipment for the rail industry, but by 2005 its image was starting to look dated. At the same time the company was faced with a static UK market and growing competition from abroad, so it needed stronger communications to create impact with potential business customers.
Working with a designer the company researched what the brand actually stood for (the big idea) and then a branding consultancy created a visual identity that is strong, clean and simple and works across all the company’s communications, including products, website, trade stands and literature.
Read the full story online in our case study.
How a brand refresh changed the public perception of NS&I:
In the late 1990s, the government’s National Savings department was perceived as an old fashioned brand for grannies and children.
Working with a design team, National Savings developed a new brand name, identity and positioning. They formulated a new approach to the marketplace that was consumer needs-led rather than product-focused.
In 2000, National Savings re-launched as NS&I. Inspired by the positive reception they received, NS&I went on to redesign their website – increasing their online sales by £45m in just eight weeks.
Design and branding
In this chapter we will outline:
- The relationship between design and branding
- The key design ingredients of branding
- Examples from the business world
As we started out by saying, an organisation’s brand is a whole set of associations which people make when they think about or encounter that business.
A common misconception – and one that designers are always at pains to correct – is that a brand is simply a logo or identity. The logo is just one manifestation of a brand, although it’s often a top-level communication, seen most frequently by the greatest number of people. It should therefore embody the key ingredients of the brand in a distinctive, recognisable marque.
Take the Nike ‘swoosh’ for example. Designed in 1971 by Carolyn Davidson, then a graphic design student at Portland State University, the swoosh is a simple yet effective logo that conveys energy and movement, appropriate to a company that makes performance sportswear.
So, while brand building and branding are complex, strategic activities, there is almost always a vital creative design component too.
Design is what translates the ideas into communication. And many designers will work through both the strategy and the implementation to ensure that the results are consistent, adaptable and in-keeping with your original brand attributes.
Key design ingredients
There is a range of design elements that can be used to convey a brand proposition. Here are a few of them, with an example in each case:
— Colour – Orange
— Shape – Toilet Duck
— Name – Egg
— Touch/materials – iPhone
— Sound – Intel
— Illustration – Lloyds TSB
— Typography – BBC
— Environment – Guinness Storehouse
After working through a branding project with designers you should be left with something called brand guidelines. This is a document which details exactly how the different design elements (typically visual) should be applied in different situations. It will give information on things like typography, graphics, colours, materials, templates and photography used in the visual manifestation of the brand, providing instructions on how to apply them in different contexts, at different scales and so on. More detailed brand guidelines may include things like cultural or behavioural directions for staff training.
The organisation can use these brand guidelines to manage the brand after the designer’s work on the project is completed without losing the original consistency and clarity of the designs and, most importantly, with losing sight of your original big idea.
In more depth
If you’re thinking commissioning a design project, we have compiled a free step-by-step guide which provides expert advice, useful tips and first-hand commentary from small business owners and designers.
Visit the Design Council website to find out more.
Strong brand values are at the heart of Innocent drinks’ success
From its humble beginnings as a stall at a small music festival in 1998, Innocent drinks now lays claim to an impressive 63% share of the £111m UK smoothie market.
Yet despite becoming Britain’s fastest growing food and drink company, Innocent has managed to maintain the integrity of its brand values, retaining the trust and support of its employees, customers and retail partners.