10 TIPS FOR RENAMING YOUR COMPANY

The best product and company names require the least advertising.

1. Know why you’re changing the name. Has your business or the market evolved so that your name no longer reflects what you do? Does the old name imply that you are out of touch with the times? Is the old name simply dull or meaningless or stale? Make sure your new name doesn’t retain the qualities you’re hoping to leave behind with the old name. Know what you want the new name to help you accomplish.

2. Do a competitive analysis. How are your competitors positioning themselves? Do their names and taglines reflect a similar approach to the market? How does (or can) your approach to the market differentiate you from the competition? Look for opportunities to stand out from the crowd and for a name that imparts what makes you different.

3. Your name represents your brand positioning. Make sure it’s the positioning you want. Your new name will anchor your brand in the minds of consumers. What do you want customers to think of when they think of you? Reliability? Cutting edge technology? Customer service that makes them feel warm and fuzzy? Maintain focus on your chosen positioning. If you try to mean everything to everybody,  you won’t mean anything to anybody.

4. Identify your target market. Branding is all about making an emotional connection with customers. Some consumers are drawn to the low-price leader, while others are willing to pay extra for the highest quality. Some consumers are do-it-yourselfers, while others prefer a lot of hand-holding. Your name is the most succinct and ubiquitous communication you will make. Make sure you know with whom you’re trying to connect.

5. Be what your name says you are. Your name is a key component of your brand. If your name implies “fun and wacky” make sure your business style isn’t stodgy. If constancy and steadiness are your company’s most salient features, avoid names that evoke the bar scene from Star Wars.

6. Create a process for choosing a name. Don’t depend on chance or divine inspiration to bequeath you the perfect name. There are exercises to get your company’s creative juices flowing, and methods for focusing brainstorming sessions. If your process is effective, your problem will be having a plethora of great names to choose from, not too few.

7. Enlist the troops. When it’s time to brainstorm ideas for the new name, make use of all your resources. The people in your company have valuable, and varying perspectives on what is important to the customers with whom they interact. When choosing a name, you want to hear it all. That new intern from the local college just might come up with the name that makes your company unforgettable.

8. Establish your new name’s “must haves.”  Different name qualities are important to different companies. For example, one company might require that their new name be:

a. Easy to say
b. Easy to spell
c. Short – only one or two syllables
d. Able to act as a verb (e.g. Xerox, FedEx, Google, etc.)

For another company, only one or two or none of the above may be important. Know which name qualities are important to you.

9. Be unique. Search your prospective name on Google. Make sure the domain name you want is available for your website, and that your new name doesn’t infringe on existing trademarks (check the USPTO Trademark Database). A name that is common – or even sounds common – is not going to provide the free marketing juice you’re looking for.

10. Think strong and deep. Make sure your name is robust enough to support the marketing investment you will make over time to build brand equity. An effective brand name will provide a deep well of marketing and advertising images. Make sure your name will support a tagline that breathes life into your company’s brand identity. If your name doesn’t inspire a clever tagline, it’s unlikely to inspire your customers.

Have other ideas? Please let us know!

DECOMMODITIZATION: Brand Stories for Financial Institutions

It’s no secret that banks and credit unions sell essentially the same products and services. The scope of competition over deposit and loan rates, products and services, and quantity, location and hours of branches and ATMs is very narrow. Marketing efforts hype each institution as “better” than the others for the same tired reasons. As a result, consumers navigating available banking alternatives feel like they’re drowning in a sea of equivalent choices.

So, how do you answer your customer’s question, “Why should I do business with you?” By being different, not just better. To separate yourself from the pack in today’s market, you must become something for which there is no available alternative. You must offer your customers what your competition cannot.

The specifics of what makes your financial institution unique will emerge from a deep knowledge of your customers – who they are and what’s important to them – and an honest assessment of your institution itself. If you’re a local bank focusing on the rural retail market, you might highlight your personal relationships and deep historical roots in the community. If you’re a regional development bank expanding into new territories, you might emphasize your strong research department and unparalleled knowledge of regional and national growth trends.

The key is telling your brand story in a way that makes an emotional connection with your customers, so that they understand your narrative and trust that you understand theirs. In all successful branding efforts, the narrative must reflect the reality. Your institution must actually be what its messaging claims it to be. So, maybe the local bank invites a farmers’ market to its parking lot and opens its doors for a couple of hours on Saturday mornings. Or maybe the development bank holds monthly informational seminars for local and regional developers.

In today’s increasingly anonymous world, we all want to be known and respected – by our families and friends, and by the institutions with which we do business. Consumers are willing, even eager, to make emotional connections with businesses and institutions they trust. Demonstrating a unique commitment over time to meet your customers’ needs is one way your financial institution can open the door to that trust.

TECH TRANSFER: From Lab to Market

Last week, I met with Cara Hajovsky, Marketing Associate at STC.UNM, the University of New Mexico’s Technology Transfer Office. STC provides a link between UNM researchers and the companies and VCs looking to turn ideas and discoveries into gold.

Since 1996, STC has filed 773 patent applications, received 270 issued patents, signed 393 license and option agreements, and spun off 57 start-up companies from technologies developed at UNM. In 2010 alone, STC filed 106 patent applications that resulted in 26 issued patents, and generated more than $3 million in licensing income for the University. More than two dozen companies, mostly startups, are currently commercializing technologies developed through STC.

Many of the technologies that pass through STC are exciting, and some are truly revolutionary.  And yet, the potential for commercial success of these technologies still starts with demand – whether B2B or B2C – and the ability of companies to understand and satisfy it. The markets for STC technologies vary from life-saving medical devices to cutting edge LED lighting, but the imperative to understand who the customer is and what differentiates one’s offering from the competition remains constant across the board.

That’s as true for next-generation mass spectrometry it was for 19th century horse and buggy whips.

WHAT IS A SOCIAL MEDIA CRISIS?

Following is a query I received from a social media colleague and my response:

Query

On July 12 Netflix announced that they are cutting back on the number of subscription plans they offer and raising their prices. This led to a Crisis situation with Twitterverse and the commenters on Netflix’s blog voicing their outrage and disappointment. Netflix chose not to react/have a dialogue in response to the criticism; is that a wise decision in a Crisis Situation? Have seen similar approach by Apple Inc.!

If not-reacting works in Crisis situations, what role could Social Media in Crises Management? Would love to learn more examples from Corporate world about the role of Social Media in Crises Management.

Response

A price rise is not a crisis. Some clients will stop using the service – and perhaps voice their outrage through social media – and others will shrug and pay the new, higher price. The price elasticity for Netflix (and most products and services) varies among customers.  Netflix customers know what they’re getting and what they’re paying for each subscription plan. Mea culpas through social media from Netflix won’t change that reality. No social media reaction required.

Legitimate complaints about the quality of the Netflix service is another story. These complaints are essentially saying, “I paid X expecting to receive Y (e.g. quality service), but I did not receive Y.” If enough customers complain about not having received their Y, some percentage of potential customers might question whether or not they will receive Y for their X.  That could lead to decreased sales, which would constitute a crisis for Netflix. In this case, Netflix would be well-advised to assure its social media customers that the poor service was an anomaly that is being addressed, and that customers will, in fact, receive their Y for their X.

Corporate reaction through social media can’t change facts, but it can build (or rebuild) confidence among customers that they will get what they pay for.

WHAT IS GOOGLE+ AND WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?

Google+ (aka G+) is Google’s attempt to storm the gates of social networking and steal some of Facebook’s $50-$100 billion thunder. G+ has been in field trials for about a week with an invitation-only, now-closed list of users. A visit to the G+ demo, searchable details, or discussion forum will give you an idea of what Google has in mind, and a taste of the first five Google+ features: Circles, Hangouts, Huddle, Sparks and Instant Upload. More features are sure to follow.

Circles

Circles is Google’s user-friendly version of Facebook Lists. As Google itself says, “ You share different things with different people.” G+ allows users to create groups, such the G+ defaults: Family, Friends, Acquaintances and Following. Most interesting from a marketing perspective, businesses will be able to segment their social-media-connected customers by geography, age, gender, interests or any other category, facilitating distinct communications to each segment. As Google says, “Sharing the right stuff with the right people shouldn’t be a hassle.” Most businesses would agree.

A team of Facebook engineers has already responded with a “Circle Hack” that replicates Circles on Facebook. Let the next phase of the social networking wars begin!

Hangouts

Hangouts is the G+ browser-based video chat feature that can accommodate up to 10 people, and is Google’s answer to Skype. Initial reviews suggest early adopters are giving the service a big thumbs up. Hangouts even allows users to watch YouTube videos together, creating virtual theater audiences. Cool stuff.

All of which is interesting, since Facebook today announced it is partnering with Skype to deliver its own version of video chat. Video chat wars… fun!

Huddle

Huddle is the G+ Android and iPhone app that functions as a chat room. This feature, Google says, is good for making group plans—a cool feature, especially for times when texting a group of people becomes tedious. Private chat rooms aren’t really new, but user-friendly, ubiquitous, Google-centric group chat functionality could draw crowds in the future.

Sparks

Sparks is a sharing app that allows users to share different collections of content with their different “Circles” of family, friends, customers, etc. Think targeted RSS feeds.

Instant Upload

Instant Upload makes it easy to quickly store and share photos from your mobile device with any (or all) of your Circles. By setting permissions, Instant Upload delivers every photo taken from your mobile device to an album privately stored in the cloud as you take them. This eliminates the sometimes tedious process of uploading your pictures from your mobile phone, and lets you access the pictures from anywhere. You manage the album’s privacy, and decide with whom you’d like to share the photos, if at all.

 

 

6 NEW AND INNOVATIVE SOCIAL MEDIA CAMPAIGNS

Mashable is yet again on the job – curating social media campaigns (among other trends) and illustrating the best of the bunch. Here are 6 social media campaigns that demonstrate innovative approaches to using social media for branding and marketing.

Know of other social media campaigns that are breaking the mold? Let us know!

SOCIAL MEDIA DEPARTMENT | DEDICATED vs. INTEGRATED?

SimpliFlying examined the social media practices of big players in the airline industry and found that integrated is better than dedicated. What’s the difference? An integrated staff means multiple people working together without a “social media department.” Dedicated means there is such a department.

As the infographic shows, airlines with an integrated model tend to perform better than those with a dedicated staff. In this case, social media prowess was calculated by taking into account Twitter followers, Facebook fans and Klout scores. While these results are particular to the airline industry, it’s worth taking them into account no matter what you’re marketing. After all, what flies for one industry could very well fly for another.

Read the SimpliFlying post and watch an accompanying video.

BLOOM - Social Media Department?

GOOGLE WALLET – PAY AS YOU GO?

On Tuesday, Google announced Google Wallet, its new NFC (Near Field Communication) platform for phones and other objects that can be quickly scanned or activated by another device. NFC is a technology that allows two devices to communicate with one another wirelessly across short distances, usually within a couple of inches. NFC target devices don’t require batteries or an attached power source to operate: they’re actually powered by an RF field generated by your cell phone.

The Google Wallet tagline: Make Your Phone Your Wallet.

Google’s application involves scanning NFC tags that correspond to discounts, loyalty cards, and other shopping offers, as well as scanning items to buy and promotional codes from things like posters and store displays. Imagine what can be done with an inanimate object that stores encrypted information, waiting for the right signal to appear and read it. Alternatively, imagine a mobile device that can update a network of embedded tags with new information as it travels, and then a system that can collect and send all of that information elsewhere.

Consumer opinion on ecommerce is still evolving, with 70% of users now comfortable with using the Internet to share and manage their financial information.

Google Wallet goes into trials this week, and could be released to the public this summer. Google Offers, a “sister application” which will also launch this summer, will debut in San Francisco, Portland and New York. It’s more than a deal-of-the-day system, working as a place to house offers, loyalty rewards and Google Places merchant deals all in one place.

Yet more innovation that is either exciting or scary.

 

8 BRANDS THAT HAVE FOUND SUCCESS ON FACEBOOK

Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable (a social media agency) shows some excellent examples of Facebook pages that work. Check out his piece on Mashable.

ALBUQUERQUE, CHINA? A MARKETING MODEL THAT TRAVELS WELL

The move toward outsourced branding and marketing departments isn’t just an American phenomenon.

NeochaEdge, a creative agency in China founded in 2008 by two Americans, Sean Leow, 30, and Adam Schokora, 29, represents the work of 200 young Chinese illustrators, graphic designers, animators, sound designers and musicians. Multinationals like Nike, Absolut vodka, and Sprite are turning to NeochaEdge to access local artists in an effort to reach the under-30 set in China, a group that is 500 million strong.

The artists work on a per-project basis and receive 20 percent to 90 percent of NeochaEdge’s fee, which can range from $10,000 to $100,000. Mr. Schokora says the company receives dozens of e-mails a day from young people all over China who want to be represented by NeochaEdge. The company won’t reveal its revenue, but says it has more than doubled in the last year. The founders are also considering expanding to other Asian markets, like India.

“We are a complement to advertising agencies,” Mr. Schokora said. “If an advertising agency wanted an illustrator from, let’s say, Harbin, it would be pretty easy to search the database and find their portfolio online,” he says, referring to the capital of Heilongjiang Province in northeastern China. “Then we just hop on instant message and get in touch.”

NeochaEdge is proving that with some clear direction from a brand, it can find the right illustrator, graphic designer or music producer for the job from its outside pool. No in-house creative team is needed. “The traditional agency model is broken, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s disrupted,” Mr. Leow said.