Brand names, positioning and the battle for the mind of your audience

I read Al Reis & Jack Trout’s seminal book on Brand Positioning again not long ago. Originally published in 1980 and updated once along the way, it’s a great read even if some of the brands referenced are a little dated from 2017. Whilst we are well into ‘the age of positioning’ which was just beginning back when the book was written, the fundamentals haven’t really changed much at all.

The book begins by commenting on how saturated media and communications had become by 1980, and how implementing positioning strategy was the best way to be heard above all of the noise in the battle for the mind of the prospect. Well, 1980 might as well be 1908 when it comes to messaging saturation compared to present day, so how important does that make positioning these days? What do you think?

What’s in a name?

The key thing I took away from the book was a reminder of how important a brand name is to successful brand positioning and winning that first recall position in the mind of the marketplace.

There is a school of thought that you can build a brand any name, and I guess that’s probably true – but think of how much more effort needed (effort = time = focus = money) having to compensate for a brand name that doesn’t work hard enough. If your name is too generic, not evocative, descriptive or memorable enough it will become very expensive exercise getting it heard, understood and remembered.

Small & Medium size brands don’t have the sorts of budgets to compensate for a weak name, yet they are usually the businesses that often settle for one. Even some of those who realise they could do with a brand refresh would still not consider to at least explore whether a stronger name is out there. Usually, there is a belief that they have more brand equity than they actually do. While in their minds that might be the case, that’s only the view from inside the business. But what about in the mind of the marketplace? That’s the actually the important question that must be asked.

Affordable Care vs. Obamacare

Reflecting on how important a name really is when it comes to creating a strong position in the mind, I remembered this little test Jimmy Kimmel did a few years back asking people on the street whether they preferred Obamacare or The Affordable Care Act. It only goes for a few minutes, go ahead and watch below…

It was very clever by the Republicans to spend so much energy and effort to ‘rename’ The Affordable Care Act (who doesn’t want that?) to Obamacare so they could reposition the idea in the minds of their supporters.

It was a strategic mistake for Obama to eventually embrace the label and ultimately acknowledge he had lost the battle for the minds of the public. After this, it was foolish for Democrats to believe they would be able to re-position the idea in the minds of anyone who had a negative perception of his ‘brand’ as it would always be linked to it.

Don’t settle for just any name

Startups have everything before them, including the opportunity to find the perfect name, yet it’s surprising how many just settle for the first thing that pops up. Take the opportunity to go through a thorough naming process once you have developed your brand strategy to guide you.

If you have an established business taking stock or your brand right now, at least consider whether your name is working hard enough to create a position in the mind of your target audience, and be realistic about how much equity you really have when thinking about it.

Luckily someone at ‘Peter’s Super Submarines’ had the courage to change their name after three years to ‘Subway’ – is your business a name change away from a more powerful brand positioning?

If you’re interested in finding out more about what might be involved in a thorough naming process for your business,  send me an email from my profile page, I’m always up for a coffee 🙂