Brand identity: What’s in a name?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;
So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
Retain that dear perfection which he owes
Without that title

Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2

The issue of naming is not as arbitrary as Shakespeare would have us believe. A name brings nuanced meaning, bringing with it the cultural associations the name carries. Sometimes, there can be positive and negative meanings associated with a name.

Consider Apple. In the computer and business world, it is associated with design andengineering, and a close attention to detail. In the music world, Apple is associated with the Beatles. Going back a bit further in history, apples have played an important role in society, perhaps most notably with Isaac Newton and his discovery of the laws of gravity.

 

Apples also have a dark side in history, such as the cyanide laced apple with which Alan Turing took his life. Other occurrences in mythology, such as Snow White’s apple, confirm this dual nature.

How then do we determine the meaning associated with a symbol? Are all apples symbolic of science or poison? Hardly. With every symbol, the way in which it is used reinforces a preferred meaning. With Apple, Inc., the slogan Think Different emphasized Newton’s scientific genesis. Through time, this has been amplified through increased innovation. Alan Turing Memorial

Not every brand has the history of the apple, however. Many more are built upon the names of their founders. Ford, Dell, and Toyota are all family names. Even Walmart derives it’s name from founder Sam Walton. In each case, these brands developed their own identity, without relying as heavily on prior associations.

How should you brand yourself? While in the past, this blog was hosted at maplemuse.wordpress.com, I have decided that a change was in order. Why was I working on a different brand when I could be building my own identity? This blog is now hosted at the fresh and minty nickmatthews.ca. After all, that’s who I am.

 

Write For Your Audience

There are many ways in which communication fails. Very often, this is because the writer (or speaker) forgets to take the audience into account. This is becoming increasingly clear in English 408A, the course on Media Writing that I’m taking this term. The current chapter we’re discussing is Copywriting and Advertising.

Batty and Cain have a lot to say about this, but the most important part of writing effective copy is to “always put the reader first” (p 159). I’ve attended lectures and presentations where the speaker is often from business management, speaking to technical developers, where much of the message is lost because they’re using the specific jargon of the business environment. Those of us in the audience spend our time trying to figure out what euphemisms like business process excellence, and synergy really mean, rather than trying to follow the speaker’s line of thought.

While Batty and Cain are talking about writing copy that sells products, the same theories apply to speeches where you want to influence others. I read a great blog post by John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, which suggests that great leadership has a strong storytelling component.

This is also one of the key points of Garr Reynolds, author of Presentation Zen. With a great story narrative, a speaker can weave together the elements that would have been dropped into technical bullet points. They will be more memorable if related with a good story.