Who Are You?

What's in a Brand?

Why brand? "Effective branding will always make your marketing dollars work harder for you," Paterson says. "At Macro, we define a brand as your name, a graphic image associated with your company and what your company does. We put it all together into what has been known in the advertising business as a `unique selling proposition,' or USP."

To strengthen your brand, you need to consider:

1.The name. The name of your company or product plays a major role in establishing brand identity. Paterson suggests the following criteria for a really great name: It should be short, easy to pronounce, easy to understand and unique. And the name should, if possible, express a benefit. Why is a great name important? "Every study shows the relationship between what we call `top of mind awareness'--the first brand that comes to mind in a certain product category--and sales," Paterson says. "The higher the top of mind awareness, the higher the sales. If you have a name that will generate awareness, it will give you a significant leg up."

The name "Reliable Roofing," Paterson says, is a good example. "There's an immediate implied benefit," she says. "You feel very comfortable about calling a company called `Reliable Roofing.' "

2. The graphic image. "A graphic can really help get a visual image in the minds of your customers about who you are and what you do," Paterson says. Consider the strong visual impact of the Coca-Cola logo and bottle.

3. The USP. The unique selling proposition (USP), according to Paterson, "will take your name and your graphic and what the business does and express it as a benefit in the minds and hearts of your customers." Every USP should be 10 words or fewer and should answer the question: "What do you do?" It should express the answer in the form of the benefit you'll give your customer.

It's not easy, Paterson warns. And it's not just a clever slogan. "Yes, it should be memorable," she says. "But more important, it's got to be able to answer the question `What are you going to do for me?' "

A New England bed and breakfast impressed Paterson with its USP. In an effort to increase business, the owners decided to use a sign to communicate what was unique about their bed and breakfast. "This is a typical marketing problem that any company faces," Paterson says. "How do you make your business stand out? This business did it with four words: `Delicious beds; Delicious breakfasts.' Those four words captured the unique benefits associated with that particular bed and breakfast."

Paterson's business also has a USP. "We're offering marketing advice, and there are many people out there doing the same thing," she says. "Our USP is `Creative solutions for impossible marketing problems.' "

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This article was originally published in the September 1997 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Who Are You?.

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