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One of the most common branding errors occurs right at the start of the brand strategy development

A man sitting in a cart with a horse behind it
Cart before the horse

The opportunity to tailor a new brand to succeed in competitive markets is perhaps the single most important opportunity that a nascent brand will face at launch. Getting it right, and building a relevant and differentiated proposition is essential to creating the conditions for early success and establishing the foundations for strong, sustained brand growth in future. Conversely, a brand that fails to stand-out or signal a relevant, attractive offer to the market will often fail, probably sooner rather than later.

It’s surprising then that many marketers approach developing their brand positioning and value-proposition by making the same fundamental mistakes. Perhaps the most common misstep is when the client has already decided on the brand name, and quite often the logo as well. It is understandable why this is tempting to do: The name is something tangible that gives a practical ‘handle’ to the yet-to-be-defined brand and makes it easier to discuss and provides a premature illusion of substance to address. It may also help, for legal and financial reasons, to assign a name to the soon-to-be new brand.

Moreover, the brand name and logo is an inherently subjective decision, making it appear to be more a question of preference than strategic process. Other times, the decision has already been made and approved in the US or Europe and not subject to questioning.

In reality, the name and logo should be amongst the last stepson the brand development process. It is after all, an expression of the ‘brand’, not the brand itself. Until the brand strategy has been determined and agreed, it’s a guessing game to cast these decisions in stone. When you think about just about every great brands, their logo and name point directly to who they are, and what their promise might be. At a minimum, the strategy and the expression should not conflict. Of course there are exceptions to this, such as old established brands like Persil, 3M or IBM, not to mention those named after their founders.

Too often, however, the pre-determined brand name and logo is inappropriate or misleading. Direct Asia for example – an excellent pioneer of on-line motor insurance – was typically misunderstood to be a courier company. Similarly, Asia Financial Networks was widely thought to be a financial news channel, rather than the technology supplier that they were. There are many more examples of companies hampering themselves with irrelevant or misleading names at worst.

The misunderstanding about the priority and place of naming and identity partly arrises from the confusion of what a ‘brand’ is, as opposed to what ’branding’ is. The ‘brand’ represents the value that the product or service provides. It may be practical or emotional, but it is the reason why customers choose it over other competitors or alternatives. It is also why they will pay a premium for the value and remain loyal over time. ‘Branding’, on the other hand, is the design, graphics and visual language that presents the brand. However, many marketers confuse the two and begin with the most tangible and easiest to select ‘branding’ and prioritise developing the name and logo first.

The other frequent early fixation is about the ‘strap line’ or ‘slogan’ which is often felt to be essential. In truth, very few slogan’s have made a significant impact and contribution to the brand’s success. The ones that have are the famous ones; ‘The world’s favourite airline’, ‘ The ultimate driving machine’, Singapore girl, you’re a great way to fly’… These are actually brilliant advertising ideas, not slogans. All to often companies make bland slogan claims like ‘Tomorrow’s technology today’, ‘Excellence delivered’ or ‘Imagine the unimaginable’. In many cases senior executives have been shown to be unable even to identify their own company’s slogan from of their competitors. Most of them are bland, meaningless and irrelevant.

So, do we eat our own dog food? Well, a bottle of champaign to the first person who can connect our name and logo to our core business proposition. e-mails to


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