Look Before You Leap

Besmirching Your Good Name

Can you imagine the reaction of a congregation if its minister announced he embraced sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Can you imagine the reactions of Pearl Jam fans if lead singer Eddie Vedder renounced loud music?

The value of a brand is its good name, which it earns over time. People become loyal to it. Don't squander this trust by attaching your good name to something totally out of character.

Millions of Americans love Frito-Lay's salty snacks. But Frito-Lay products have never been known to quench thirst. In fact, they make people's tongues feel like swaths of felt. That's why PepsiCo, which was the parent company of the brand, made a terrible mistake in naming a new powdery refreshment Frito-Lay Lemonade.

When you hear Ben-Gay Aspirin, don't you immediately think of the way Ben-Gay cream sears your skin? Can you imagine swallowing it?

Cracker Jack Cereal, Smucker's Premium Ketchup, Fruit of the Loom Laundry Detergent and Noxzema Solid Anti-Perspirant Deodorant were other attempts to stretch a good name. A good brand name stands for something vibrant. You can suck the life out of it by attaching it to a new product that stands for something different.

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This article was originally published in the April 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Look Before You Leap.

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