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The 5 Most Important Rules of Branding

BrandingBranding is an often misunderstood, yet absolutely critical aspect of marketing. People often think of branding as their logos, their colors or their company’s name. It’s a lot more than that.

Here are the five most important rules to keep in mind with branding.

Rule #1: Own a Category

Nobody remembers #2 and #3. If you can’t be #1 in a category, pick a sub-category and own it.

HP makes about 1 million printers a week. It’s the clear leader in the consumer printer market. Trying to build a brand in the generic printer space is likely suicide. Yet Brother succeeded, because they picked a sub-category to own: black and white laser printing.

Rule #2: Don’t Be Descriptive

If “Walmart” was called “Dollar Market Store,” it wouldn’t have succeeded. If “Logitech” was called “Quality Mouses,” it wouldn’t have succeeded.

Descriptive names can be good domain name or even good local store names. They’re not good brands. People don’t remember descriptions.

Rule #3: Be Selective with Your Brand

Don’t put your brand on everything. Your brand name should only be associated with the top products in your line. It should only be on products you want people to associate with your brand.

Coca-Cola does this brilliantly. They own dozens of other brands, but only put Coke on a select few products (Diet Coke, Coke Zero, etc.) Other products, like VitaWater, stay within their own brand. That keeps Coke’s brand from diluting.

Rule #4: Convey a Feeling

People should get an instant feeling when they think of your brand. What feeling do you want people to get when they think of your brand?

Salespeople know that people make buying decisions based on emotions, then only later justify it with logic. That’s why cereals have such colorful commercials. They appeal to children’s sense of fun and adventure, then justify the purchase to the parents with nutritional information.

You should consciously choose what kind of emotional association you want with your brand.

Rule #5: Your Brand is a Word

At the end of the day, your brand will eventually be boiled down to just one word. Apple. Microsoft. Prada. Amazon.

Your tagline will be forgotten. Your company story will be forgotten. Even your products may be forgotten. What people will remember most is your one word, the name of your brand itself.

Fortunately, the meaning of the word you choose is maleable. For example, take “Yelp.” Before Yelp.com, yelp meant a sharp sound, the sound a dog might make if you stepped on its tail. Not a positive association. Yet with careful color selection and marketing, Yelp.com managed to turn that word into a positive association. Pay close attention to your “one word” and how people perceive it.


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About Sean Donahoe

Sean is one of the most recognized industry leaders in business and marketing. As a popular speaker, author, consultant he has helped over 50,000 students world wide find success in their businesses and has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and businesses of every size grow and thrive...

One comment

  1. Hi Sean
    some very helpful tips here. This is an area that I have struggled with immensely but the clear parameters you have laid out here have been a great help. I now have a clear idea for my branding and a strategy in place.

    Many thanks


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