Management would like to own everything.
Marketing would like to own a word.
“What is a Sony?” I have no idea. I know what it used to be. Today the name has lost meaning.
“What is Apple?” I know immediately. So do you.
So what is your start-up? What does it stand for? When customers say its name, what pops into their head? When your answer is boiled down to a single word or concept, you have won. If you have to explain using sentences and paragraphs, you lose.
What does not work is standing for “great customer service,” or “top quality products,” or “lowest price.” Left-brainers use those phrases and end up explaining what they mean with a lot of words.
Right-brained marketers want to supply a single word that sums up the customer experience such as what is meant by “great customer service.” Otherwise, there is no way for a consumer to file the brand into the mind.
The objective of a marketing program used to be to make the brand famous. Today it is to answer in a single word the question “What is a [your company’s name]?”
Here are some examples:
- What is Campbells? Soup.
- What is Domino’s Pizza? Home delivery.
- What is Red Bull? Energy drink.
Check out automobiles:
- BMW = Driving
- Lexus = Luxury
- Mercedes = Prestige
- Scion = Youth
- Volvo = Safety
Are you struggling with your start-up standing for something? Try applying these right-brained marketing tools:
- Focus the
product line. Giant corporations sometimes get away with broad lines of
products and services if they have a strong name like General Electric. Google
is heading that way (from “search”). But focus requires dropping everything
other than the one thing that can make the name stand out. For start-up CEOs, focus
takes guts and often a fight with the board of left-brained investors. Nokia
dropped rubber tires, trees and telecommunications gear to do only mobile phones. You
know the rest of the story.
- Focus the
company name. Start-ups can change
their names to reflect more of what the company wants to stand for. Broadcom is
better than Integrated Circuits Inc. and rides the expansion of mobile phones
to smart phones requiring ever-larger (broader) communications channels.
- Focus on an attribute of the brand. To build a brand, you need to stand for something in the prospect’s mind. Burbn Inc. shifted its name to Instagram when founders decided to change from a multi- featured HTML5 check-in project to a business focused on mobile photography. That’s a classic example of how real start-ups cleverly change their direction and then focus and win (pivoting, morphing, shifting, flanking, whatever the word, you get it) by becoming a name that stands for something in the prospect’s mind. It the moment Instagram says it stands for “Fast, beautiful photo sharing.” “Instant photo sharing” is better. Beautiful lacks crisp meaning. More attributes requires more thinking and more clicks.
That’s how to move from a meaningless name to a branded start-up. It takes right-brained marketing.
BOTTOM LINE: Serial entrepreneurs are eagerly pursued by investors because they know how to create a marketing program that differentiates their business from the competition. Prospective customers recognize instantly what the company is about, in a word or two. That’s what you must do for your new enterprise. It is not easy. But when you can do that, you’ll be well on your way to building an unfair competitive advantage that leaves your competition complaining.
I wish you The Best on your Adventure!
"Marketing is too complicated to be left to management people who have little experience in marketing and who don't understand its principles." wrote Al Ries.
Rated by Advertising Age as one of the Top Ten living legends of marketing, Ries's findings and related implications in the book "War in the Boardroom" are spot on with the marketing challenges that confront first-time entrepreneurs.
This series on start-up marketing follows the principles laid down in that book. I highly recommend the book to start-up leaders.