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TJ Tedesco

View from Mount Olympus

By TJ Tedesco

About TJ

T.J. is team leader of Grow Sales, Inc., a marketing and social media services company operating at the intersection of compelling content, clear vision and quality communication practices. In this blog, fire is a metaphor for print. Hang on, this ride will be weird...

Prometheus crept into Mt. Olympus, stole fire, returned to the lowlands, ran from house to house distributing it, got caught, was chained to a rock, lost his liver to a huge ugly bird and was rescued by Hercules. Leveraging his fame, Prometheus started Fire Enterprises Inc.  (FEI). Since fire was the hottest technology of the time, company success came fast and furious. Two generations later, fire isn't such an easy sale. Now led by Prometheus' grandson Org, FEI's growth is non-existent, competitors are pounding and prices are in the toilet.

What Does Your Brand Stand For?


Last week, Fire Enterprises (FEI) marketing maven Marka discussed with Zoot, Org, and Numo when (and when not to) launch a rebranding effort. This week, branding talk continues with a focus on determining what FEI’s brand should represent to the marketplace. Remember, fire=print.

The FEI tribe—Marka, Zoot, Org, and Numo—had gathered in the conference room for their next round of rebranding discussions. Last time they’d all agreed to rebrand FEI. Now, it was time to put the chariot wheel to the road: what attributes did they want the new FEI brand to represent? And what would the new brand look like?

Zoot tugged his collar nervously. “This rebranding business is overwhelming.”

“No sweat, Zoot,” Marka said. “We can simplify this part of the branding process by breaking it into three steps.” She approached the conference room whiteboard and wrote on it in coal:

Step I—Attribute Identification
“Every member of FEI’s leadership tribe is sitting in this room,” Marka said. “Nobody in all of Olympus is more qualified than us to determine what the FEI brand should stand for than us. Together, let’s work on the attributes we want associated with our new brand. Right now there are no wrong answers. Engage your intuitive right brain and shout out whatever comes to mind.”

Soon Marka had compiled a list:

  • Innovative
  • Dependable
  • Bold
  • Market leader
  • Responsive
  • Flexible
  • Cheerful
  • Creative
  • Durable
  • Fast Delivery
  • Always There
  • Quality
  • Value
  • Fair price
  • Historic
  • Legendary
  • Excellent service

“Great start, tribe,” Marka said. “Now let’s move on to Step II.”

Step II—Choose Three Attributes to Define Your Brand (The Hard Part)
“Our brand can’t be all things to all people,” Marka said. “Let’s engage our analytic left brains and ruthlessly edit this list down to the three attributes that define us best.”

“Where do we start?” Org asked. “All of these attributes are positive, and I wouldn’t mind having any of them associated with our brand.”

“Let’s start by removing anything that doesn’t ring true,” Marka said. “We have to be brutally honest with ourselves about which of these attributes are actual strengths, and which are just wishful thinking.”

“But can’t a brand attribute be an area we want to improve?” Zoot asked.

“Sure,” Marka said, “But first we should think about which of our competitors might already own that category. Take ‘fast delivery’—we can talk a big game about how fast we deliver torches. We can train our runners to take faster routes and buy machines that produce torches faster. But ultimately we know Pyro owns the ‘speed’ category—that’s what his business does best. That’s OK—there are plenty of other positive traits we’d rather be known for.”

“We should also remove attributes that might matter to us more than our customers,” Zoot said. “For instance, the phrase ‘market leader’—our customers might care that we’re a market leader. But I think they’d care more about the fact that we’re known for reliably delivering high-quality fire products.”

“Good point, Zoot!” Marka said. “We should also look out for watery attributes that don’t mean much. I understand the words ‘historic’ and ‘legendary’ are meant to connote our storied history, but I don’t think they do so in a way that’s compelling to our customers.”

After a half an hour of conversations like this, the tribe had finally winnowed the list down to three:

  • Dependable
  • Innovative
  • Value

“This is perfect,” Marka said. “Together these three attributes represent how we want to be perceived in the fire market. We’re not the lowball option, and we’re not the speed demon. We simply deliver an excellent product on time every time, and we’re always coming up with new ways to help customers use fire to improve their business.”

Marka scribbled more on the whiteboard.

Step III—Building Brand Elements That Fit These Attributes
“The next step of our brand-identity-building effort is to come up with an appropriate name, logo, tagline, messaging, color palette, and other graphical elements that fit these attributes,” Marka said.

Zoot was already sketching a logo out on a piece of paper. “Finally,” he said, “I get to unleash my inner Androcydes.”

“Do we really want to rename Fire Enterprises, Inc?” Org asked warily.

“This is a rebranding, Org,” Marka said. “No change should be completely off-limits without at least a discussion first. Let’s not be afraid to kill sacred cows. That said, if we’re going to change our name it has to mean something. Remember Mars Seafood?”

“Mm,” Zoot said. “I’m getting hungry just thinking about their delicious trout.”

“You’re always hungry, Zoot,” Marka said. “Anyways, awhile back Mars merged with Demeter Farms to form a surf-and-turf company. The name they went with? CronusCo.”

“What does that mean?” Numo asked.

Marka shrugged. “I have no idea. Nobody does. I do know that CronusCo’s stock lost about 90 percent of its value in its first year, and the amorphous brand name may have contributed to that. The lesson? Brand names must have meaning. They must instantly resonate with customers and - to state the obvious that eluded CronusCo—make it clear what the company does!”
“We’ll talk in more detail on this topic at tomorrow’s meeting,” Marka concluded.

Zoot was already sketching away. “I can hardly wait!”

Next week: Marka and the tribe discuss creating logos, taglines, color palettes, and other key brand elements.

Today’s FIRE! Point

Start rebranding efforts by brainstorming a list of attributes for which you want to be known, narrowing down those attributes to just a few, then developing brand elements based on these attributes.

FIRE! In Action: Looking for A New Brand Name? Don’t Overthink it

In the late ‘90s, an Iowa-based postpress company was brainstorming new brand names. During a brainstorming session, someone said “We finish. We bind. How about FinishBinders?” The simple name makes it crystal-clear what the company does. More than 15 years later, FinishBinders is going strong with that same name.

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